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Question Number: 32615

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 8/1/2018

RE: Competitive Under 16

David Israel of San Jose, CA USA asks...

This question is a follow up to question 32608

I don't think your answers have cleared up the question I was asking. I found and this seems a common point of confusion worth more detail.

'If the ball is within playing distance the player may be fairly charged by an opponent'

By itself this phrase simply has no meaning. Here's Ronaldo trying to use the ambiguity in the rules to foul Messi Here Messi gets the foul but Ronaldo pointing to his shoulder has a point. We 'feel' that it is a foul but had Messi not been in motion and Ronaldo comes in a bit slower then maybe we would 'feel' that its a fair charge.

Given that I don't believe the rules explain adequately what in practice are referees supposed to be using as their basis of decision? And what's wrong with just disallowing any contact from behind?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi David
First off the game is never going to put in place a law that punishes all contact from behind simply because as I said it is a contact sport. Aerial challenges many times result in contact between the players. On ground challenges there can be contact between players with some ranging to slight to other more physical contact. Most times the contact is not even felt by the players and only when it gets careless or reckless is it a foul.
In respect of a charge the Law tells us that it is a challenge for space using physical contact within playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows. So the hip, shoulder can be used against an opponents side not the players back. For those of us in the game a long time the laws did allow a higher level of contact in the past on charging. I would also say that in the past 10/15 years the game has tightened up considerably on illegal challenges from the rear.
As to the level of acceptable force in a charge I describe it as easing a player off the ball, that is the challenge for space which is neither careless or reckless..
Careless means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or that he acted without precaution.
# No further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless
Reckless means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent.
# A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned.
If I compare the Messi charge to that of a player running along side an opponent and he uses his shoulder on the opponents shoulder / side to move him away from the ball then that is not a foul. Yes sometimes the charged player can lose his balance and fall yet there has been no excessive action used and to use the understanding of an appropriate amount of force to make space.
On the messi incident it is a foul every single time. Ronaldo motions that he uses his shoulder which is the old excuse of it being a legal charge. It was not a legal charge as it was into Messi back, plus the arm was used as well to push the player.
I might also point out that one of the difficulties that referee have in this is mismatches in size and strength. When a large strong player charges a smaller opponent with perhaps little effort yet the smaller opponent is easily knocked to the ground then we have to just consider that for what it is, a mismatch.
In this video there is a charge
Is it legal. Certainly the level of force used is low. The question is whether an arm was used to push the opponent. It is debateable and as the players accepted it as legal the referee correctly IMO allowed play to continue
In this one the referee sees it as a foul
Was the shoulder into the players chest? He admits to using the shoulder yet that is only one element of a charge being legal.
Have a look at these clips
All are illegal.
Now in this last one below I might see that one going unpunished in certain games. I don't have any difficulty with the referees call of a penalty kick and neither does the players

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi David,
It is true that the Laws do not go into any specifics as to what constitutes a 'fair' charge - but then that is true of a number of aspects of the law. So as a guide, the referee can use the definitions of 'careless' and 'reckless' as quoted by ref McHugh. There is also a certain level of accumulated knowledge and common practice that is used in all foul recognition situations. When it comes to fairly charging, it is commonly held to be a side-on challenge or contact that eases an opponent off the ball, is not careless or reckless, does not use the arms and usually involves contact between the same areas of the body (shoulder to shoulder or hip to hip). In addition, a small amount of minor contact between one player's chest and another's back, especially when there is not much movement going on (both players are relatively stationary, as in a shielding situation) can be tolerated. However if a player charges too quickly and/or forcefully into the back of a stationary or slow-moving player, that will usually be seen as a foul (careless or reckless).

As ref McHugh also points out, it would be virtually impossible to rule out all contact from behind without totally changing the nature of the game which always has (and always should, in my opinion) allowed for a certain amount of physical contact between players, so long as it is not excessive.

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